Ben Safalow ’22 learned a business lesson early on: build a better mousetrap. After he purchased his first car, Safalow noticed a big trend in his peers tinting their car windows. Many of the car tinting retailers, he felt, were doing an admirable job of tinting the windows, however, their websites and customer service lacked professionalism. He saw the potential profit in this business and decided to learn how to do it himself through a rigorous online course and improve upon the business.
“That’s where I saw the opportunity,” he said. “Not only to make a good product in tinting but to also make a good business side, too.”
This is not Safalow’s first rodeo. He started a business in the seventh grade building custom gaming with various parts. Disappointed with the profit margins, he sold the business after a year. He posted his business on Shopify along with its website, profit margin, and list price and found a buyer.
“I’ve always been interested in business - all aspects from web development to building a website. I like cars so building a business around cars was a perfect combination of merging cars and business,” he said.
The tinting materials average $15.00 to $20.00, and the average cost for Safalow’s tinting service ranges from $150.00-$300.00, depending upon the car. He remarked that learning the process of tinting was difficult, and his first job took between eight to ten hours. Eventually, he estimates that a car will take approximately 1 ½ to two hours to complete so he could manage three to four cars a day.
His current clients are friends and family, and his marketing at this point relies on word of mouth. Currently, he wants to manage his business growth slowly to ensure that his website is functioning properly. He recently applied for an LLC, established Square to accept payments, and will run ads on Facebook and Google in the near future.
There are different levels of tinting percentages which are based on the amount of light that comes through: 70, 50, 35 20, 15, and 5. The legal limit is 35% window tinting in Connecticut, and the windshield is 70%. Any amount under that is technically illegal. The advantages of window tinting include the film protecting the window from shattering in an accident and blocking out UV rays so the inside of the car will stay cool in the summer. For people who suffer from skin melanoma, an individual can get a prescription for car tinting to prevent UV rays from entering the car.
Safalow’s satisfaction comes after he sees the finished product of his work. “To see the customer’s face when they see how good the car looks after the tinting is incredible,’ he said.
As Safalow’s business takes off, he eventually plans over the summer to open his own shop around West Hartford and branch out into detailing. Ideally, he would like to establish a partnership with a dealership and tint their used cars.
Safalow’s advice to the budding entrepreneur? “Enjoy what you do and be determined,” he said. “There’s a lot of obstacles that you face and you just have to push through them. A lot of people originally thought this was a bad idea, and you have to ignore the naysayers and focus on what you think is good.”